Review: Oasis Dance Camp

Oasis Dance Camp -- It's Not Just a Camp Any More!

(This essay was written by Sherezzah Bint al-Waha, and was published in Zaghareet magazine May-June 2009.)

Let me start off by confessing that I've been a big fan of Oasis Dance Camp for many years. Many, many years--ever since I first discovered it in 1988. I've attended every year since then (sometimes twice a year, since they've started multiple locations), and so I've had a lot of opportunity to watch how it has evolved over the years. This past January I attended Oasis Dance Camp South in Jekyll Island, GA and I find myself reflecting on how Oasis has changed with time and with location.

My first Camp was in its original and only location at the time, Traverse City, MI. That location is, indeed, a "camp". No, we weren't outside in tents, but we were out in a remote wooded location by a lake, with one building having a kitchen, where we had our communal meals and most of our classes; and the other building being the dorm, where you shared a room with 3 other campers, with shared bathrooms down the hall. Yes, it's bit rustic--you need to bring your own bedding and towels, you need to clean up after yourself and bus your own tables after meals.


Cassandra
But mostly what I remember is how nice everyone was. I had travelled from Florida to Michigan by myself, not knowing anyone who was going to be there (I went because I had been impressed by Cassandra at a workshop a couple years earlier, and I wanted to study with her again). But by the time Camp was over 4 days later I had made a bunch of new friends. Combine that with the top-quality classes and fun additional activities, and it's no wonder I felt compelled to return, again and again.

So, back in the 90s, when they started a new location in the Florida-Georgia area (close enough for me to drive to, instead of flying), obviously I had to start going there. I've gotten most of my troupemates turned on to it, so they join me and we make a "girls' week out" of it. And we all enjoy making new friends, the fun times, and the great classes (and Cassandra).

For the South location, they decided to try a different approach, and base the event in a hotel instead of a camp (although they still call it "Oasis Dance Camp"). This provides a less-rustic alternative for those who prefer a private bath, or who don't want to bring their own bedding. But hotels can have their own issues, and the Camp organizers have less direct control over the environment. So it has been with Camp South; every year there seems to be some kind of glitch, with the service, or the food, or something. It has never been significant enough to spoil the overall Camp experience, and the directors always do everything possible to make things OK, but the result has been that they still haven't settled on a "perfect" location for Camp South.

So this past January Oasis South was at the Oceanside Inn and Suites in Jekyll Island. It's a lovely location, right on the ocean, but there were some of those glitches (which got resolved, for the most part). But most importantly, this Oasis still had all the important things which I've come to expect--and love--about it.

I did miss having our drummer, Nicole LeCorgne, there this year; I heard she had a scheduling conflict. She's been part of the Oasis staff since 1996, providing accompaniment for technique classes and teaching music and percussion classes. I must say, it's very cool to have a live drummer.

So this year Oasis Dance Camp has been going on for 25 years... obviously, they must be doing something right. But, they're still getting better all the time. This year they're planning a new location in Luxor, Egypt--and I'm planning to be there!

For more information on Oasis, see their web site at www.oasisdancecamp.com.


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